Google Announces New Smartphones, Other Products, as Expected

Posted on October 4, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile with 38 Comments

Google Announces New Smartphones, Other Products, as Expected

As was the case with Apple a month ago, Google’s press event today was largely ruined by leaks. But unlike Apple, Google had some substance to its message, and it announced new Pixel 2 smartphones and accessories, Google Home smart devices, and a new Chromebook 2-in-1 called Pixelbook. It even escaped the leakers with some of its most innovative product announcements.

“For this wave of computing to reach new breakthroughs, we have to build software and hardware that can bring more of the potential of AI into reality, which is what we’ve set out to do with this year’s new family of products,” Google senior vice president Rick Osterloh writes.

Google announced these things in a different order, but I thought I’d start with the most important new product: The new Pixel and Pixel XL. These two phones are pretty much as rumored, but in a nice twist, Google was able to reveal that it has once again has the best camera of any smartphone: With a score of 98/100, the Pixel 2 handily beats the Note 8 and iPhone 8 Plus (94), iPhone 8 (92), and even last year’s Pixel (90), which was for most of the past year the best smartphone camera.

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have refined designs that are less iPhone-like than before, especially the XL, which has a near bezel-less 6-inch display with an 18:9 aspect ratio that resembles the Samsung Galaxy S8+ but with the curves. (The Pixel 2 looks a lot like last year’s phone).

Both offer squeezable sides for launching Google Assistant, stereo speakers, water-resistance, an even more accurate fingerprint reader, and improved fast charging. On the bad news front, Google has removed the headphone jack and supplies a USB-C dongle instead.

I’m really excited about the Pixel 2 XL, in particular, and though the pricing is a bit on the high side—$649 (64 GB) or $749 (128 GB) for the Pixel 2 and $849 (64 GB) or $949 (128 GB) for the Pixel 2 XL—I’ve ordered one. Availability is expected for mid-November, with Pixel 2 coming in Just Black, Clearly White and Kinda Blue colors and Pixel 2 XL in Just Black and Black & White.

In addition to the phones, Google announced several Pixel accessories, including an innovative pair of headphones, a new round of colors for the Daydream View VR headsets, and a Google Clips wireless camera accessory that sends clips to your phone. The headphones are the most interesting. Dubbed Pixel Buds, these wireless headphones include an integrated Google Assistant and provide real-time language translation functionality like the Babbelfish from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

“Say you’re in Little Italy, and you want to order your pasta like a pro,” Google explains. “All you have to do is hold down on the right earbud and say, ‘Help me speak Italian.’ As you talk, your Pixel phone’s speaker will play the translation in Italian out loud. When the waiter responds in Italian, you’ll hear the translation through your Pixel Buds. If you’re more of a sushi or French food fan, no need to worry—it works in 40 languages.”

Moving past the phones, Google also announced its first new Chromebook PC in two years, the Google Pixelbook. Dubbed a 4-in-1—or what we call a convertible in the Windows PC world—the Pixelbook provides a 12.3-inch display, Core i5 or i7 processors, 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM, and 128 GB to 512 GB of PCIe-based NVMe SSD storage.

As you might expect, the Pixelbook can be used in standard laptop mode, like a (thick) tablet, or in stand or presentation modes. It’s the first Chromebook with Google Assistant built-in, and it supports an optional (and $99) Pixelbook Pen that offers better latency than Apple Pencil or the new Surface Pen, tilt support, and 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity.

The Pixelbook is a premium device, sadly, with pricing starting at $999 and escalating all the way up to $1649.

Google also expanded the Google Home lineup with two new devices, the tiny Google Home Mini and the Sonos-like Google Home Max.

Google Home Mini is exactly what it sounds like, a small and cute new Google Home, similar to the Amazon Echo Dot, that can optionally work with an external wired speaker. Mini comes in three colors—Chalk, Charcoal and Coral—and costs just $49.

Google Home Max looks like a response to the Apple HomePod. It’s a huge Google Home smart speaker with premium sound, booming bass, two color choices (Chalk and Charcoal), and an Apple-like price tag of $399. But it does come with 12 months of ad-free YouTube Music too.

I’ll be offering a deeper analysis of at least the Pixel 2 XL tomorrow. I need a chance to read up on this stuff and rewatch the presentation first.


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Comments (40)

40 responses to “Google Announces New Smartphones, Other Products, as Expected”

  1. Eric Rasmussen

    Wow, this is actually pretty exciting stuff, especially the babelfish headphones. Chrome OS is, in my mind at least, Windows 10 S done correctly so a premium device for the OS is nice to see.

  2. timothyhuber

    I had the stream running in the background while I was working at home today and eventually had to turn the microphone off on the Google Home in my office as it kept trying to respond.

  3. Martin Pelletier

    RIP Microsoft in the consumer market for sure after seeing the new products today.

    Well I guess Nadela was right to put all in the cloud and moving to the enterprise only. Because, I can't see why I should not tell someone to not buy a Chromebook.

  4. BBoileau

    I have been thinking of making the all in switch to Google for a while now. With the elimination of Groove and these new devices, it appears to be the time to move.

  5. Otto Gunter

    Most of what I've been reading only show the back of the Pixel phones; what's up with that? Plus their backsides are ugly, and so are the colored power buttons.

  6. glenn8878

    Google keeps running rings around Microsoft.

    • PeteB

      In reply to glenn8878:

      This really is the kind of lineup Microsoft should have been rolling out. This could have been them if only the proper vision and execution.

      But alas, Microsoft's CEO is too busy Hitting Refresh. Right into IBM-obsolescence.

  7. Bats

    Some points:

    1. LOL...did I not say how dumb, stupid, and irrelevant Cortana is? The Google Assistant does everything.
    2. I love the Google Assistant feature in the new Pixelbook. Just circle the subject and the Google Assistant will give you all the information you need on what you circled.
    3. Google Home Mini....$49? AWESOME!
    4. I like the new Pixel UI. It's cleaner. Rumors have the Search Bar is customizable.
    5. Augmented Reality cracks me up, because Microsoft soooooooooooo lost this.
    6. The Pixel buds are soooooooooooo mine!
    7. Good news. Mom! You're getting a new Pixelbook!
    8. Pre-Ordered and can't wait to get it on Oct. 25th! (along with Home mini)

    In the words of Paul Thurrott, "THIS is what winning looks like!"

    • Martin Pelletier

      In reply to Bats:

      Pretty much yes. I can't see why I would recommend a low end Windows laptop anymore. And Amazon must start to ramp up the devs. Google has the potential to kick them out of the house.

      I can see that Microsoft has no reason to sell Windows 10 Home anymore.

      • Tony Barrett

        In reply to MartinusV2:

        My kids can pick up a Chromebook or Windows 10 laptop, and use either without a second thought. Both do what they need, but the Chromebook is quicker, and easier to use. Not many really *need* a Windows device any more. It's just familiar - at the moment. Only when those huge, lumbering, slow patches come down do we really see how archaic Windows is.

  8. TraderGary

    I ordered the Google Pixel 2 XL 128GB in "Just Black". I also added the comprehensive Google Preferred Care insurance. My order confirmation says my delivery date will be Oct 25 - Oct 26.

    When my new Pixel arrives I will change to Project Fi. I work from home and do almost everything everywhere with WiFi. My non-WiFi data usage averages less than 0.3 GB per month. My phone bill will drop dramatically with Project Fi and will quickly pay for my new Pixel phone.

  9. lightbody

    Pixel 2 is my perfect phone apart from 2 things - the small battery, and the lack of a headphone port. If they'd just made it slightly thicker they could have fixed both these things. Price-wise its a world away from my Nexus 5 or Oneplus 3 (double the price in the UK)

    • offTheRecord

      In reply to lightbody:

      Yeah, the cheapest model, Pixel 2 - 64 GB, costs the equivalent of roughly $942 in euros at the current exchange rate -- roughly a 45% premium to the price in the U.S. The Pixel 2 XL 128 GB costs roughly $1,237 in euros -- "only" a 30% premium to U.S. prices.

  10. Polycrastinator

    One correction here: there's no audio out on the Google Home Mini. They presented it as working with Chromecast enabled speakers, but that just means you can tell the Mini to play on another device the way you could already do with the standard Home. You can't plug a speaker into it, which is a great shame.

  11. jwpear

    $1000-1650 for a cloud device? I must be missing something. Did they discuss building for the future when Android apps run on the Chromebook? Surely that's what they're doing. Or maybe this is meant to be an aspirational device. You have to be a serious Google fan to pay that much for a limited device. No disrespect intended. I think Chromebooks are a great concept and fill a gap nicely for highly reliable devices used by folks with typical personal computing needs, but I can't see paying so much for such.

  12. haizelmaeem

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  13. spacein_vader

    "Google was able to reveal that it has once again has the best camera of any smartphone: With a score of 98/100,"

    According to whom? In what benchmark?

  14. arknu

    How can you write this article and not even mention that all of these products are only available in six countries? It is an incredible weakness that after a year Google has not broadened the availability at all. Limited availability might have beem forgivable last year, given that they had just launched the Pixel line, but this year it is not. They are essentially ceding international markets to Apple.

    Case in point: Apple launched Siri in my country a couple of years ago, Apple Pay is launching in the next few months, CarPlay is already available. Google Assistant, Android Auto, Android Pay and the Google Pixel and Google Home are all missing.

    Where have we seen this before? Oh yes, Microsoft...

  15. torsampo

    Did the shipping already shift so quickly? Expected ship date for my Pixel 2 XL is October 17th.

  16. Rcandelori

    Unless I'm missing something, these Pixels are not water resistant. iPhone and Galaxy are water resistant.

    • TechnologyVotary

      In reply to Rcandelori:

      The Pixel's are now IP 67 just like the iPhone. The Galaxy "8s" are IP 68. So, these should survive a dunk for 30 minutes as long as it is less than 1.5 meters. So, if the concern is dropping into a 'sink', puddle etc.. it should be fine; you may not do underwater photography with it.

  17. Waethorn

    The shot above shows the new universal back button in Chrome OS, which is only in the dev channel presently.

  18. Daishi

    I really wish I could get a Pixelbook running Windows. It's everything that the Surface Laptop should have been.

  19. chaad_losan

    The real time language capability will sell many Pixels. I'm amazed that the ChomeBook Pixel smokes the Pen stats for both Apple-iPad and Surface. Ouch. Not the fastest anymore. But not as many levels.

    • Angusmatheson

      My father is super excited about the Pixil 2 translation - I’m more skeptical. Didn’t we see the same demo from Microsoft Skype a few years ago...and what happened to that? The AI really needs to know what is being said to translate real conversations not just directions and translating menus....but if they really haves nailed changing!In reply to chaad_losan:

  20. hrlngrv

    A Chromebook with 16GB RAM? I guess Google just ain't interested in making Chrome's memory use efficient.

  21. melinau

    The expensive speaker is bound to be pants. It's being touted as something for "audiophiles", though what they mean is people with lots of cash & tin ears. Trying to steal Apple customers again!

    The 'phones are pretty so-so devices very late 2017 expensive-for-what-they-are (i.e. "Premium") fayre. The only point of interest is in the name of the bluey colour: though I'm not sure Miles would have been impressed..

    The earbuds look kinda interesting and indicate where Google's main thrust lies.

    The crux of all this malarkey is, of course the AI stuff, and the hardware simply a means of getting (and analysing, and reselling) your input.

    If (like Paul appears to be doing) you go for the full Google experience, then your entire digital life will flow past Google's sniffers providing them with infinitely various means of profiting from your life & lifestyle in the process.   Their sophistication and reach is vastly bigger and more powerful than anything available to Governmental spies.

    Of course I'm offering a fairly dystopian view of a Company which professes to "Do no evil". It's a nice slogan, but the reality is that Google' do whatever it takes to make big profits.

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